Government should embrace the Internet, not impose more restrictions to stifle news portals and blogs
23 March 2016
Lawyers for Liberty views with extreme concern the Communications and Multimedia Ministry’s proposal for online news portals and political blogs to be registered with the government, thus effectively restricting further the ever-shrinking democratic space in the country.
The fact that Minister Salleh Said Keruak distinguishes between political and non-political blogs for registration is extremely telling that the real purpose for the registration is to quell critical and dissenting news and views against the government.
We also note with extreme concern that such underhanded tactics are not new, as in the recent past, The Edge, The Malaysian Insider, Malaysiakini, Sarawak Report and other independent press and blogs had been targeted with investigations, arrests or blocks on the Internet while pro-government press like Utusan Malaysia and blogs have been allowed to publish freely.
There are no good and valid reasons for registering news websites and blogs other than an attempt to control news and information critical of the government. Such behaviour is undemocratic, a grave abuse of power and in breach of the ‘no-Internet-censorship’ policy which is protected in both the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 and MSC Malaysia’s Bill of Guarantees.
The authorities must be reminded that real crimes are not to be found online in news websites and blogs and on social media. It would be more prudent for the government to come to terms with the reality of the vast and borderless Internet and social media age where anybody, in good faith or otherwise can write or comment on any issues.
As increasing number of states are moving towards more transparency and accountability, respecting the demands of freedom of information, speech and the press, Malaysia is taking giant strides backwards, towards harsher and excessive penal laws and regulations that are inconsistent with modern democratic demands.
We call upon the government to recalibrate their outdated policies on the Internet and media freedom. Instead of trying to stifle the flow of information or to only allow news supportive of the government to flourish, it should embrace the Internet.
Let the public and market forces decide whether a particular news website or blog had been credible, useful or otherwise as readers are unlikely to continue visiting these sites if they are filled with unfounded, exaggerated or implausible content.
Lawyers for Liberty
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